Research Associate (WANDEL project)

United Nations University (UNU)

Bonn, Germany 🇩🇪

Organizational Unit: UNU Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS)

United Nations University

The United Nations University (UNU) is an international community of scholars engaged in research, postgraduate teaching and capacity development, and dissemination of knowledge in furtherance of the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations. The mission of UNU is to contribute, through research and capacity building, to efforts to resolve the pressing global problems that are the concern of the United Nations and its Member States.

UNU Institute for Environment and Human Security (UNU-EHS)

UNU-EHS, established in December 2003, is part of the UNU system, a worldwide network of research and training institutes. Its mission is to advance human security through knowledge-based approaches to reducing vulnerability and environmental risks. For more information please visit

Environmental Vulnerability & Ecosystem Services (EVES) section

The EVES section at UNU-EHS conducts original, policy-relevant research addressing the vulnerability and resilience of social-ecological systems. Specifically, EVES aims to understand how social ecological systems are affected by environmental hazards of diverse nature such as water and land degradation, floods, droughts, and other hazards. EVES not only considers the impacts of single hazards, but also investigates multiple hazard situations, identifying accumulating or cascading impacts and feedback between hazards of contrasting nature such as floods and droughts. The concept of ecosystem services is of central importance in most of the research conducted by EVES researchers.

For detailed information please visit

WANDEL project

The WANDEL project explores whether limitations in the availability of water resources in sufficient quantity or quality might accelerate or delay the global energy system transition (Energiewende). Funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), this multi-stakeholder collaborative project focuses on the interlinkages between hydropower, coal, solar power, and biomass-based energy production and global water resources.

UNU-EHS coordinates the case study in Brazil and assesses the linkages between water resources and energy production at the local level by conducting a case study on sugarcane-based energy production in the Brazilian Cerrados (tropical savanna region). The water demand of sugarcane-based energy production (both the agricultural and industrial phases) will be analysed in relation to regional water availability, with particular focus on land use and technological improvements in irrigation. The impacts of sugarcane production and sugar mill wastewater discharge on water quality will be assessed. The UN-EHS led case study also contributes to the development of nexus-type water and energy indicators. Additionally, UNU-EHS provides support for the dissemination of the project results targeting local and global stakeholders.


Under the authority of the Director of UNU-EHS/Vice-Rector in Europe and the overall supervision of the Head of the Environmental Vulnerability and Ecosystem Services (EVES) section, the successful candidate will be entrusted with the following tasks:

  • foster collaboration and work with research partners in Brazil and Germany
  • identify and assess the impacts of biomass (sugarcane)-based energy production on water resources locally in the Brazilian Cerrado, and, in cooperation with project partners, globally
  • collect, process, and analyse secondary data on water discharge, water use, environmental quality, agricultural inputs (fertilizer, pesticides), sugarcane production, etc.
  • generate primary data on water use and water quality based on surveys, stakeholder dialogue, and water sampling
  • identify and assess potential solutions to improve water use efficiency in the area
  • conduct a drought risk assessment of the region regarding sugarcane production and water resources availability for other users such as ecosystems
  • organise and lead stakeholder workshops in Brazil
  • contribute to the development of indicators on water and energy security; collaborate with partners in the context of ecosystem service assessments
  • provide data to project partners to generate water balance and footprint assessments
  • draft project deliverables and reports, and contribute to dissemination (incl. scientific publications and presentations at conferences)
  • support the supervision of MSc students and student assistants working within the project
  • perform other related duties as required in the EVES section
Qualifications and experience requirements
Required qualifications ans experience include:
  • master’s degree in Environmental Sciences, Natural Resources Management, Sustainability Science, Agricultural Science, Geography, Environmental Management, or other relevant discipline
  • minimum of one (1) year of relevant working experience
  • experience in water resources management (ideally quantity and quality)
  • experience with the concept and methods used in ecosystem service assessments
  • excellent communication skills with fluency in oral and written English as well as Portuguese oral skills are required
  • experience with renewable energy systems (preferably biomass-based energy) is an asset
  • German language skills are an additional asset
  • track-record in scientific writing is an asset
  • experience with fundraising for scientific projects is an asset
  • strong ability to carry out work independently
  • project management experience will be an asset
  • excellent time management skills
  • ability to take initiative and work in an international and interdisciplinary team

Applications from suitably qualified women candidates are particularly encouraged.


Remuneration will be commensurate with qualifications and experience.

Duration of contract

This is full-time (40 hours/week) employment on a 12 (twelve)-month Personnel Service Agreement (PSA) contract, with possibility for renewal subject to satisfactory work performance and availability of funds. The combined duration of appointments shall not exceed six (6) years.

This is a locally recruited post; no relocation allowances apply. The successful candidate will be employed under a local contract and will not hold international civil servant status nor be a “staff member” as defined in the UN Staff Rules and Regulations.

Starting date

As soon as possible